Sitler: Kazuki Takizawa’s artistry takes aim at suicide

penny sitler

The video shows a stark black background and a black table covered with hundreds of brilliantly clear, lopsided hand blown glass vessels.

There is abject silence – is something wrong with the sound? Then the sound of dripping water begins and grows louder, pinging against the glass. As the off center vessels fill with water, they begin to tip, rolling and crashing to the floor. Then the simple message appears: “What’s your breaking point?” followed by “#Suicide prevention.” Watching the video and hearing the artist, Kazuki Takizawa, share his vision and the impetus behind his artwork are breathtaking.

Much of Kazuki’s artistry is influenced by his own experience with mental illness and by taking care of his younger brother during a rough patch which included having delusions and suicidal thoughts. They were raised in Hong Kong, the sons of Japanese parents.

“We never talked about emotions, especially negative ones. When people said things, we were supposed to understand the nuances,” he said.

While in college in Hawaii, a friend suggested Kazuki should go to therapy for depression. He got mad, thinking he was just being human, not realizing he could have a mental illness. He later followed through with therapy and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental illness characterized by episodes of mania and depression. He has learned “to control it or it will control you.” Now that Kazuki has learned more about bipolar disorder and how it manifests within him, he “has learned a lot about himself. I understand my patterns now and can prepare myself. I have learned that it can be controlled and I’ve had a positive experience with it.”

Kazuki and his parents made an emergency trip to Japan to help his brother through a time of suicidal thoughts. His brother was “violent toward himself and others and it was a very scary, really dangerous time for him.” Today, Kazuki calls his “little brother one of the bravest people I know.”

Kazuki’s experiences made him realize he needed to speak up to help others so he uses his artistic talent to speak about mental health and the powerful, dark feelings that often accompany the pain and struggle of mental illness. He thinks it would have been helpful to have known someone with bipolar disorder before he was diagnosed with it; that influences his willingness to open himself up and talk about it with others.

 While spending time as an artist in residence with The Works in Newark, Ohio, Kazuki created a body of work entitled Inner Beings. The pieces are elegant vessels with wings, which Kazuki explained he would love to have. “That’s the freedom I want, to be able to soar!” The pieces, each with elements of nature, have whimsical personalities, some seeming to offer a caress with their wings.

We all can learn a lot from Kazuki, who has embraced the disorder that he “lives alongside. To improve quality of life, people need to learn how to manage mental illness. I’m still searching for where my heart belongs, for my own happiness.” In the meantime, he continues to use his exceptional artistry and his gentle storytelling to share the truth about mental illness with others.

To see Kazuki Takizawa’s work including videos:

Found in The Newark Advocate May 19, 2018


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